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Wauwatosa residents sue city, alleging rights were violating amid protests

Posted at 9:10 PM, Nov 02, 2020

WAUWATOSA — Two people are suing the City of Wauwatosa after they say their constitutional rights were violated amid the protests over the decision to not charge police officer Joseph Mensah in the killing of Alvin Cole.

Plaintiffs Kathryn Knowlton and Dana McCormick, both of Wauwatosa, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city; the chief of police, Barry Weber; and the mayor, Dennis McBride.

The lawsuit describes the incident on the night of Oct. 10, when law enforcement dispersed a crowd of protesters near Wauwatosa City Hall after curfew went into effect.

The plaintiffs say police ordered them to disperse "without cause" and then "forcibly" arrested them without the ability to comply with the dispersal order. The lawsuit argues that is in violation of their 4th Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable seizures.

The lawsuit alleges the two were detained and "interrogated" before being cited for violating curfew, which went into effect before the larger crowd was dispersed by police.

The plaintiffs partially blame the alleged injustice on the order that put that curfew into effect. On Sept. 30, Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride authorized an emergency order, in anticipation of protests and unrest on the chance that the Milwaukee County District Attorney decided to not charge Wauwatosa Officer Mensah.

The lawsuit alleges that the two plaintiffs were sitting and reading books on the city hall's lawn before the large group of protesters arrived. Shortly after the curfew went into effect, at 7 p.m., they soon noticed police and armored cars arriving and blocking streets at the intersection where the protesters had gathered. The plaintiffs allege the line of officers blocked their ability to leave.

One of the plaintiffs, Knowlton, asked for a Wauwatosa police officer as the police line approached, as she wanted to leave, according to the suit. The lawsuit alleges that four armed personnel without identifying insignia "grabbed both of her arms and forcibly pulled her through the line" of police. The other plaintiff, following behind, had her arms pulled behind her back by personnel in riot gear, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs were taken by police vehicles to a police processing room, the lawsuit states. Other law enforcement officers then interviewed them, photographed them and issued them with the citations.

According to the lawsuit, the "Plaintiffs suffered physical discomfort and injury, including soreness and bruising from having their arms handcuffed behind their backs, and significant emotional distress and trauma, including fear about where they would be taken and what would be done to them, from their unlawful arrest and detention."

The suit further alleges that the "Plaintiffs continue to experience post-traumatic stress, and fear on-going retaliation."

The plaintiffs demand compensation, a declaration from the city that the dispersal order violated the First and Fourth Amendments, among other demands. They also demand a trial by jury.

TMJ4 News reached out to the City of Wauwatosa late Monday evening for comment.

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